Home Air US Air Force’s long-awaited hypersonic ARRW flight test flops

US Air Force’s long-awaited hypersonic ARRW flight test flops

AGM-183A ARRW on B-52
A B-52 with an AGM-183A ARRW instrumented measurement vehicle 2 at the Point Mugu Sea Range. US Air Force file photo

The first flight of the US Air Force’s AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) did not go as expected during the test on April 5, as the booster vehicle failed to launch.

According to the service, the ARRW test missile did not complete its launch sequence and remained attached to the B-52H Stratofortress bomber carrying it, which subsequently returned to Edwards Air Force Base, California.

While the event represents a setback for hypersonic progress, the Air Force noted that the test would offer important feedback for the program’s further development.

The first booster flight test on April 5 took place after a slight delay, as the service had expected to fly the ARRW last year.

It was expected to demonstrate the booster’s ability to reach operational speeds and collect other important data. In addition to booster performance, the test vehicle was to validate safe separation and controllability of the missile away from the carrier B-52H, through ignition and boost phase, all the way up to separation of a simulated glide vehicle.

The service said it would now inspect the missile and try to see what went wrong before making adjustments for a future test.

“The ARRW program has been pushing boundaries since its inception and taking calculated risks to move this important capability forward,” said Brig. Gen. Heath A. Collins, Armament Directorate Program executive officer. “While not launching was disappointing, the recent test provided invaluable information to learn from and continue ahead. This is why we test.”

It is worth noting that the first flight of the booster was actually the eighth flight test for the ARRW program. The previous seven were captive carriage flight tests.